DailyDirt: Fuels From Thin Air

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Carbon dioxide has been the focus of a lot of discussions on global climate change and energy policy. Certainly, there are other greenhouse gases, but CO2 is the major by-product of our fossil-fueled economy that people have been massively pumping into the air at an extraordinary rate. Over millennia, biology has already come up with an answer to this problem -- in nature, carbon dioxide is part of a carbon cycle that is recycled and/or sequestered into wood or sugars or other forms of chemical storage. Perhaps some clever chemists/scientists can come up with another kind of photosynthesis to save us from dangerously high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? Check out some of these research projects that could turn CO2 into fuels. If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.


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    Paraquat (profile), Dec 4th, 2013 @ 5:58pm

    DME

    Closely related to the production of methanol from carbon dioxide, another useful fuel is DME (dimethyl ether). It works as a simple replacement for propane, a very useful fuel which can be used for cooking, water heating or even a replacement for diesel fuel in motor vehicles. DME has at least one advantage over battery-powered electric cars, because it isn't range-limited. Even more practical is to use DME in trucks and tractors. As usual, Wikipedia has a very informative page:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimethyl_ether

    Of course, turning CO2 back into a fuel requires energy. It would make no sense to burn a fossil fuel to recycle CO2, you'd need to use something like hydropower, wind, solar, geothermal or nuclear power.

    It certainly makes a whole lot more sense to create something like methanol or DME than it does to make ethanol from corn (which consumes about as much fossil fuel to produce as it "saves"). Whenever I read (usually on a "green" web site) that Country X or Y is getting 15% of its energy from "biomass" and this is touted as a "good thing," I don't whether or laugh or cry. Almost always, they are talking about ethanol, which is good for public relations but not for the environment.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2013 @ 10:33pm

    "A novel, very efficient, single-step catalytic system to convert CO2 to methanol has been devised, but the problem is that it uses a borane compound that is actually more expensive to make than methanol (so the process isn't very economical). "

    if it is a catalyst it is not consumed in the reaction, therefore would only need to be produced once.

    The issue with any of these schemes in the energy equation, like converting water into hydrogen and oxygen a clean and effective source of energy, but it takes at least the same amount of energy to create H and O as you get back by burning the H and O, usually much more energy.

    Want to extract carbon out of the atmosphere? plant a tree.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 2:58am

      Re:

      I believe the idea is to get fuel from the CO2, not to capture it, which I guess can be done burning the wood of the tree of course but it takes a long time to get vast amounts of it.

      But the concept of planting a tree is a good one, the tree does all the energy work on their own and give out many other things that can be used.

      Now that is the real challenge, to make closed artificial systems that function like natural systems.

      e.g.:

      Bank erosion can be remedied by putting a retaining wall that can be reinforced by metal rods inserted and meshes that eventually will decompose or you can use plants with long strong root systems that regenerate all by themselves and last practically forever, in India there is a region that build bridges out of trees they last hundreds of years(the lifespan of the trees),

      http://rootbridges.blogspot.com/
      http://homeguides.sfgate.com/soil-erosion-control-plant-list- 68961.html
      http://www.laspilitas.com/garden/howto/slope.html

      They call planting a low tech solution for erosion, but really, which man made material can regenerate itself, self replicate and last indefinitely?

      Digressing now.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalysis

       

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    Michael Greer, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 3:44am

    They're called trees....

     

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